November 3rd Constitutional Amendment
Cons: The increase in the mandatory school district residence homestead exemption will provide only nominal property tax relief for homeowners and reduce property taxes for the average homeowner by about $126 a year. Increases in appraisals and local property tax rates may mean that no actual reduction in property taxes occurs, merely a reduction in the rate of growth of property taxes. While the homestead exemption increase will provide only nominal property tax relief for any individual homeowner and no relief at all for those who do not own their own homes, it will cost the state $1.24 billion every two years to make up the revenue loss for school districts. That is in addition to the $8.4 billion a year the state already spends for tax relief provided in prior years that likewise never materialized because of rising appraisals and tax rates. The state may not continue to generate revenue surpluses sufficient to make up the revenue loss to school districts arising from the homestead exemption increase. Property taxes are a local matter. The best way to control local property taxes is for voters to hold local officials accountable.
Cons: The proposed amendment would decrease property tax revenue available to school districts, municipalities, counties, and other taxing units to provide essential services and would impose a burden on the state to the extent the state makes up the revenue loss to school districts. Additionally, because military families tend to reside in proximity to military bases and facilities in this state, property tax exemptions for disabled veterans and their families disproportionally affect certain areas of the state and have a greater effect on the ability of taxing units in those areas to raise sufficient revenue to provide essential services as well as on the distribution of the tax burden in those areas.
Cons: The amendment would allow state officers, who are serving in full-time paid positions, to be physically present at the state capital infrequently and to possibly neglect their duties of office. Essentially, state officers serve as the chief operating officers for their respective state agencies, which have central offices in Austin, and the officers’ duties require the officers to be available to the agency employees serving in Austin. State officers are often required to conduct statewide business at the seat of government, and residency in a location other than Austin would likely increase the state-reimbursed travel expenses of the officers. Finally, a state officer, by maintaining a residence away from the state capital, may be able to select a residence based on the officer’s perception that the location would provide a more favorable venue than Travis County for any legal action brought against the officer.
Cons: The passage of H.J.R. 73 will expand gambling in Texas. There is concern that this will lead to future expansions of gambling through the use of electronic displays to conduct electronic raffles at sporting venues and to expand other electronic gambling at bingo establishments, horse tracks, or greyhound racetracks.
Cons: Instead of increasing the maximum population threshold for counties allowed to perform private road work under Section 52f, Article III, the population limit should be eliminated. All counties in the state should have the option to construct and maintain private roads in the county as long as private landowners agree and pay the county for the cost of the work.
Cons: Opponents of the amendment feel that the amendment is unnecessary because there is no threat to hunting and fishing in this state. Efforts to enact the amendment as a preventive measure may in fact spur groups opposed to hunting and fishing to begin activity in response. A constitutionally stated preference for the use of hunting and fishing to control and manage wildlife may force regulations to change in a way that would make it more difficult to achieve a balanced ecosystem. While other methods of control might be more appropriate in certain situations, those methods might have to give way to the constitutional preference. The amendment causes confusion between a person’s protected right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife and the role of the state and federal government in enacting laws that regulate those activities. The line between regulation and right is unclear.
Pros: The proposed amendment would provide a consistent and reliable source of funding for transportation projects in the state. This state’s current transportation system is inefficient and in poor repair in many areas, which has a negative effect on the state’s economy. Large transportation projects can take many years to complete and may include unforeseen costs, making it impractical to disburse the entire cost of a project at one time. The current practice of funding such projects using biennial appropriations, however, can lead to delays when an expected appropriation is not received or has to be spent for debt service. The state needs a predictable, dedicated revenue source that allows for future planning to address the state’s infrastructure demands. The proposed amendment would provide that source of funding so that existing projects can be completed and new projects can be planned up to 10 years in advance and started in areas that will lead to the greatest return on the state’s monetary investment. Although the dedication of state tax revenue to the state highway fund reduces the amount of revenue that would otherwise be available for general state purposes, the proposed amendment contains mechanisms by which the dedicated revenue would be available for those general purposes if needed.
Cons: The proposed amendment, which would constitutionally dedicate billions of dollars of state tax revenue each year only to transportation-related projects and the payment of transportation-related debt, would tie the hands of future legislatures during a time when the legislature has discretion over less than 20 percent of the state’s budget. This could lead to the state being required to make substantial cuts in essential state services, such as public education and health and human services, in the event of a downturn in the state’s economy. There are better alternatives for providing transportation funding that would not affect the state’s ability to respond to future budget crises. There is currently a considerable budget surplus available to the legislature that could be appropriated for transportation projects. In addition, the rates of other taxes the revenue from which is already dedicated to transportation could be increased to provide additional funding.
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November 3rd Constitutional Amendment